On Sunday, we read three conversations between Jesus and his disciples (or “would be” disciples) from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9. In the first conversation, the Apostle John was very concerned about a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus. He tried to stop the man because he didn’t hang out with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus responded to John, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” There are some people who say that these were literal demons: servants of Satan who were sent by him to torment people. Other people say that these were figurative demons: causes to which we assign negative spiritual energy. Whichever way you choose to interpret this passage (literally or metaphorically), the point is that the disciples encountered some people whose lives were tortured by forces that seemed beyond their control and a man who was freeing those people from their bondage of fear and pain—and he was doing so in the name of Jesus. Apparently, Jesus celebrates any time a person shows compassion to another person—even if that person isn’t the kind of person who hangs out with him and his disciples. The way of Jesus allows people—even if they are different from us, come from different places and backgrounds, and hang out with strangers—to show compassion to others. In our Scripture reading, Jesus also pointed out the importance of making the reign (kingdom) of God our top priority in life. Those who follow in the way of Jesus put the reign of God ahead of obligations placed upon us by family and friends. Seeking first the reign of God is the way of Jesus.
I wonder what our world would be like if we all truly put the reign of Christ ahead of all else. I wonder what our politics would look like if our political and religious leaders did that. I am pretty sure our world would look very different than it does today. Jesus made it clear that loving God and others were his top priorities. He also taught that we love God by loving others. Jesus celebrated and encouraged goodness and compassion wherever they showed up, and he wants us to do the same.
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“A Message from Kahu Alan Akana” is provided most weeks by the Kahu (Pastor) of Koloa Union Church, an Open & Affirming (ONA) congregation of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a member of the Kauai Association and Hawaii Conference.